With all the popularity surrounding online programmers like Netflix, YouTube and, as of late, Facebook, some TV networks may be showing signs of concern in regards to waning audiences. However, some have figured out a more creative solution – why not work with online broadcasters to generate more hype for programming
That’s exactly what HBO and Amazon have done as of late, “sampling” some of its latest series through Facebook with offers of full episodes and clips. Digiday recently reported on this new business practice, which seems to be playing off pretty well.
Last month, Amazon premiered the debut episode of its new series Catastrophe through Facebook, which can be found on its official page. HBO followed suit a week later with full episodes of two of its newest series, including Ballers featuring Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and the political comedy The Brink, featuring Tim Robbins and Jack Black.
TV networks have advertised online before, even offering exclusive programming that ties in with original shows. But with “sampling,” a new kind of buzz can be built around premiering shows, possibly drawing in more audience members with a “taste of what’s to come,” as it were.
At one point, YouTube was the ideal partner for this practice, but with Facebook’s recent push into video – and its teaming up with a number of companies and programmers in the process – a new competitor could be on the rise.
“Right now, the world of video content distribution is right on the edge of total chaos,” said James Nail, principal analyst for Forrester Research. He explained that a two-minute clip of a show just doesn’t cut it anymore, and more exposure of a program is needed to hook potential audience.
It’s not just a draw for television programming, either. The likes of Ballers and The Brink could easily attract viewers to HBO’s separate Now service, which enables viewers to tune in to programming for a low monthly fee, without the need for a cable connection. (Of course, cable viewers don’t hurt either, since HBO is still a primary service on Xfinity and DirecTV.)
Such a practice could easily increase interest in digital video services, along with regular programming. “Networks need to evolve at a pace that will find consumers as quickly as their behaviors change,” said Jim Marsh, vice president of digital and social media for HBO. “Digital sampling is an effective way for us to introduce our programming to our current and potential subscribers. Ultimately, we’re trying to create new fans.”
Brannon added, “It’s part of an overall strategy to include households that are excluded. Get people hooked and get people subscribing. I don’t think it’s going to result in a heck of a lot of pay-TV adoption. It’s a vehicle for OTT adoption.”
With Facebook’s recent expansion of video services, it could easily be as competitive as YouTube on this front. “We are always looking for innovative ways to work with our partners, and in this case, we had a new opportunity to work with Facebook to leverage the massive reach of their platform,” said Marsh. “Facebook has made some significant changes to their video capabilities in recent months, which made it possible for us to do this.”
Facebook also seems to have better reach when it comes to individual pieces of content. “The thing that (Facebook) offers that YouTube doesn’t is an (algorithmic) feed that people check in on multiple times a day,” said Nail. “YouTube, it’s still, ‘Gee, I’ve got to go to YouTube and search for stuff and maybe I’ll stumble onto something new.'”
Marsh put it more into business terms. “The digital video ecosystem is so interconnected that there is no single best way to get exposure. It’s important that we work closely with all of our partners to reach people on multiple fronts.”
So far, the strategy seems to be working. Ballers has managed to accumulate 5.5 million views since its debut, while The Brink is nearing 900,000 viewers. (That’s mostly due to the popularity of Johnson, who helped drive Furious 7 and San Andreas to big box-office numbers this year.)
Consumers who didn’t catch the episodes, however, will still be able to do so for a few weeks. “Facebook is an incredibly important strategic partner of ours, and we have a history of collaborating in innovative ways, including the Game of Thrones red carpet live stream earlier this year,” said Marsh.
However, there are no plans to introduce other episodes to other social video platforms…at least, “at this time,” according to Marsh.